Archives for July 19th, 2013

2008 Tesla Roadster

2008 Tesla Roadster Rear Three Quarter View

2008 Tesla Roadster Rear Three Quarter View

2008 Tesla Roadster Action Side View

2008 Tesla Roadster Side View

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2008 Tesla Roadster Rear Three Quarter View


VIEW OUR EXCLUSIVE MOTOR TREND VIDEO OF THE TESLA ROADSTER IN ACTION.

So how fast is the Tesla Roadster really? In a few seconds, we’re gonna find out because framed by its porthole-size windshield is a deliciously straight stretch of Skyline Boulevard, a knockout snake of a road we’ve never heard of before in the coastal hills above San Carlos, California. San Carlos, in case you’re not Google-Earthing at the moment, is the inviting, northwestern Silicon Valley ‘burb where Tesla decided to settle its unpretentious research and development quarters about four years ago. Through the trees, we occasionally glimpse Stanford’s 285-foot-tall Hoover Tower some seven and a half miles away.

Okay, then, I’ve got the brake pedal stapled to the floor. The mirrors are scoped for innocent traffic. Coast is clear. Dip into the accelerator and…remember that Mark Twain quip about the coldest winter he ever knew being a summer in San Francisco? Ditto that for this San Carlos place. Except it’s now December, the Roadster’s top is AWOL, and an Arctic front is leaning in from the gray Pacific. But back to business.

2008 Tesla Roadster Action Side View

Can an electric sports car really deliver sports-car thrills? Absolutely-though its dynamics are velvety in their violence and its silence is almost snakelike.

I lean into the accelerator, brace myself and…er, hold on, we’ll get to that. I first want to tell you about the irony of this car’s name. Haven’t you wondered where “Tesla” comes from? Automotive historians might be acquainted with the story about Thomas Edison famously giving encouragement to a young employee named Henry Ford (“Young man, you have it. Keep at it. Electric cars must keep near to power stations”). However, the reality is that cantankerous Tom would soon embark on thousands of experiments aimed precisely at cracking the automotive battery nut, and in 1904 finally introduced-amid much stage-managed hoopla-his nickel-iron battery for electric cars.

It didn’t work out, at least not automotively. But the tie-in with the 2008 Tesla Roadster is that, a year before the Ford conversation, Edison had a giant row with another employee, a curious Serbian immigrant named Nikola Tesla. Depending on which story you like, Edison either did or didn’t renege on a $50,000 payment to Tesla. Edison’s version was that he meant it as a joke. Either way, the historic champions of direct current, Edison, and alternating current, Tesla’s baby, were pretty much at each others’ throats after that. So what gets me is that now, a century later, the first popular electric car to crack the battery nut is called a Tesla, not a Tom. Sure, Tesla was a genius. But did he even try to make car batteries? Nooo.

2008 Tesla Roadster Side View

All right, then, back to the car-specifically, its batteries. The reason I’m braced for a wallop when I nail that accelerator isn’t the watermelon-size electric motor’s 248 horsepower. What’s worrying my neck is the combination of the motor’s 211 pound-feet of zero-rpm torque and the ease with which its 6831-cell, lithium-ion battery pack can juice the little banshee. Note that, at an estimated 2690-pound curb weight, the Tesla Roadster has a weight-to-torque ratio of 12.7 pounds/pound-foot. By comparison, it’s natural reference, the sizzling Lotus Exige S (with 165 pound-feet of torque and 630 fewer pounds) offers 12.5 pounds/pound-foot-but only when you finally reach 5500 rpm. Notably, that’s not zero rpm.

Although the battery pack contains the equivalent of just 2.1 gallons of gasoline (before recharging losses), Tesla claims the Roadster’s efficiency is six times that of rival sports cars, and it contributes ten-fold fewer CO2 emissions. Perhaps. What’s painfully apparent as you delve into the world of battery EVs, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles is that everybody’s sequence of PowerPoint charts, funnily enough, favors themselves.

2008 Tesla Roadster Interior

2008 Tesla Roadster Rear View

2008 Tesla Roadster Gear Shifter

2008 Tesla Roadster Side View2008 Tesla Roadster Overhead View

Still, the Tesla is undeniably, unbelievably efficient: Given its miniscule ration of “electric” fuel on board and its 220-mile, combined-cycle range (recently reduced due to a subcontractor’s miscalculation), the Roadster delivers roughly 105 miles per electric gallon. Assuming that electricity is (optimistically) sourced from a highly efficient combined-cycle, natural-gas-fired powerplant (which Tesla claims can provide an efficiency of 52.5 percent from well to outlet), the Roadster’s gasoline-equivalent well-to-wheel mileage works out to something like 55 mpg. That’s roughly 1.5 times (or higher, by Tesla’s calculations) that of the Prius, the green standard of current automobiles. By the way, there’s little cause to fret about laptop-scenario battery infernos, either-the battery is liquid-cooled by the same refrigerant used by the air-conditioner; all those cells are bathed in a total of 27 square meters of surface-area to squelch any troublemaking hot-spots.

Tesla’s real troublemaker hasn’t been batteries but its transmission. Or make that, transmissions. An electric car, even one with a 13,500-rpm redline needs at least two cogs to get lickety-split to 60 and still top-out at 125 mph. Transmission Design One proved unreliable; Transmission Two, which is fitted to the car I’m in, operates nicely but isn’t lasting more than a few thousand miles. Presently, two more subcontractors are simultaneously going full-bore on transmission designs Three and Four to accelerate the development. Confronted at a recent Tesla Town Hall Meeting attended by still enthusiastic, but detectably restless deposit-placers (there are some 600 of them at the moment), Chairman Elon Musk predicted production would start slowly but ought to reach full tilt by summer. When a questioner queried if Tesla’s investors were getting skittish, Musk (who sold PayPal for several hundred million dollars) replied, “Unequivocally, I will support the company to whatever extent is needed. I [Musk's bank account] have a long way to go before [money's] a problem.” Optimistically, Musk noted that their painful transmission development is preemptively smoothing the road for the next Tesla, the code-named “WhiteStar” sedan.

2008 Tesla Roadster Front View

The current transmission is a two-speed, DSG-like double-clutch design, with the motor automatically spinning up or down to match revs. Move the lever and you’re actually just throwing a switch; there’s no clutch pedal and the sound is akin to an electronic yelp. Think of C3P0 being kicked.

Although it’s a prototype I’m driving, the differential is going to need a lot less lash when you snap on and off the accelerator, which presently elicits a nasty drivetrain buck (this probably isn’t helping the brittle transmission, either). “Drop-throttle” basically tailors the car’s inherent mild understeer, but what’s interesting is the regen’s strong drag when you lift. In fact, often the friction brakes aren’t really needed at all, and when they are, your right foot gets to enjoy old-fashioned sports-car braking feel because the regen isn’t concomitantly ramped up. On the move, the Tesla’s ride is surprisingly supple. Lotus has done a laudable job of stretching its Elise chassis two inches and accommodating a near-1000-pound battery (offset by a carbon-fiber body) while keeping this thing a frantic road dart on twisty roads.

I check the mirrors again. Still no traffic. I’m almost grimacing as I release the brake and pound the accelerator to the floor. Whrrrrrrr…30 mph, 40 mph, 50…in the four seconds it’s taken to read this sentence, the Roadster has shrieked to 60 mph (Tesla’s claimed 3.9 seconds would seem entirely plausible in a controlled setting). There’s no wheelspin, axle tramp, shutter, jutter, smoke whiff, cowl shake, nothing. I’m being eerily teleported down the barrel of a rail gun, head pulled back by a hard, steady acceleration. Bizarre. And before too long, profoundly humbling to just about any rumbling Ferrari or Porsche that makes the mistake of pulling up next to a silent, 105-mpg Tesla Roadster at a stoplight.

2008 Tesla Roadster Wheel

2008 Tesla Roadster Taillight Closeup



2008 Tesla Roadster
Base Price $98,950
Vehicle Layout Mid-motor, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door roadster
Motor AC synchronous, 248-hp/211-lb-ft
Transmission 2-speed manual
Curb Weight 2690 lb
Wheelbase 92.6 in
Length x Width x Height 155.4 x 67.8 x 44.4 in
0-60 mph 4.0 sec
Fuel Economy 105 mpg gas equivalent
Range, Combined 220 miles
Recharge Time 3.5 hrs @ 220 volts/70 amps
On Sale In U.S. Currently/delivery in 2008

Martin Eberhard Profile

IS TESLA IN TROUBLE?

After our pleasant visit to Tesla’s San Carlos tech base, we began intercepting ominous signals about Tesla throughout the EV blogosphere. Most notable, Martin Eberhard (pictured), a Tesla founder, was forced out and has subsequently begun his own blog, www.TeslaFounders.com. In a recent entry — which has since been removed after pressure from Tesla — Eberhard enumerated the series of sometimes abrupt and random-appearing firings that have been taking place at his former company (among them, Wally Rippel, a genuine EV visionary).

Tesla fans have consequently been on red alert, some tea-leaf-readers going so far as to say the company is going under or preparing itself for sale. We, obviously, have no idea what all this means. But as students of the car business, none of us is raising eyebrows just yet. Startups are brutal. Few succeed. And it’s not unusual to see periodic chaos among those who do. Elon Musk, Tesla’s chairman, has stated that the company needs to trim its sails toward producing cars and fulfilling orders, and not everybody’s cut out for letting go of their baby, transmission reliable or not. A Tesla spokesman has also enumerated various personnel overlaps that needed inevitable paring. Let’s hope that’s all we’re seeing because the Roadster is a cool automobile technically, a cooler automobile to drive, and an historic game-changer in our perception of battery-electric vehicles.

Finally, after reading through the cottage industry of blogs orbiting Tesla Motors, I’m amused to discover that Elon Musk’s (wanted or unwanted) nickname is “Edison.” So maybe my tongue-in-cheek speculation that the car might be better named “Tom” wasn’t so far off! - Kim Reynolds, Technical Editor

AND THERE’S MORE…

Just as we posted our Tesla feature and video to the Web, more news regarding the company’s transmission conundrum appeared on Tesla Motors Web site. As speculated in our feature, there will in fact be an interim, one-speed transmission. The bad news is that its compromised ratio (needed to achieve a sports car-like top speed) will temper the car’s acceleration rate to 5.7 seconds to 60 mph, instead of the 4-flat (or less) that was originally promised (and recorded by us from a prototype two-speed transmission car).

The twist is that the “permanent transmission,” which will appear later this year as production really ramps up, will also be a one-speed. Huh? Does this mean Tesla is permanently lowering its performance targets?

No — due to an unexpected solution. Instead of achieving their original acceleration bogey via a two-speed tranny, they’re simply beefing up the motor’s power by enhancing the PEM (Power Electronics Module) and adding an advanced cooling system to the motor. Folks who are delivered early cars with the interim hardware will be called in (coincident with the production increase) for an update to the latest spec, free of charge. What isn’t clear is whether this hardware swapping will include a new, cooling-enhanced motor as well, or instead see a client’s existing motor somehow retrofitted.

What all this suggests is that the problems with the two-speed transmission must have been onerous indeed. This is a costly fix. Moreover, the motor is already at the technology’s power density fringe; getting more out of it can’t be easy. And, to be honest, I’m a little saddened to see the two-speed go as it was rather interesting to drive, though its relaxed shift time would probably be difficult to ever trim due to the giant ratio gap a two-speed necessitates. On the other hand, Tesla rightly points out that the car’s quarter-mile times will benefit with the elimination of the time-wasting gear shift at 65 mph. Furthermore, a one-speed works to an electric car’s inherent advantage in drivetrain simplicity.

Tesla says all regulatory approvals for sale are now in place, including EPA, DOT, and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Moreover, Elon Musk, Tesla’s chairman, will be receiving the first production next week (time to park the McLaren, Elon), with series production starting March 17. - Kim Reynolds, Technical Editor

By Kim Reynolds

2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive Of All-Electric Sport Sedan

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

HI-RES GALLERY: 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

After an hour in a 2012 Tesla Model S all-electric sport sedan, one thing became clear: It’s a viable car.

The Model S gives Tesla Motors a shot at turning into a real car company.

That’s a provisional judgment; as many journalists have noted, 10-minute drives or an hour driving and riding in limited New York City traffic hardly provides the time or mixed conditions for a proper review.

But the Model S can make the case for electric cars in a way that the odd-looking Nissan Leaf or the politically controversial Chevy Volt never will.

It’s good-looking, in a Jaguar vein. The performance of the top-end Model S Signature Series Performance model we drove was quietly spectacular.

We saw no major quality flaws or obvious manufacturing defects (unlike the 2012 Fisker Karma we tested earlier this year).

And with EPA-rated range of 265 miles and an 89-MPGe efficiency rating, the Model S should eliminate any trace of range anxiety for regular daily use (outside of long road trips).

So the 2012 Tesla Model S sedan is about as promising a new product as the industry has seen for many years.

Now Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has to get the car into volume production, fill the portion of almost 11,000 reservations that turn into paid orders–and generate enough cash to do all that plus develop its next models.

Sleek but not radical styling

If you’re going to echo a luxury-car shape, you could do considerably worse than the profile of the Jaguar XF and XJ. Those were by far the most common comparisons from journalists and passers-by at this morning’s Tesla event.

The proportions of the Model S are those of its competitors–the BMW 5-Series, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the Audi A6, and the Jaguar XF–though with a slightly longer wheelbase and shorter rear overhang.

Overall, the Model S isn’t as noticeable on the street as the Tesla Roadster or the low, swoopy, curvaceous Fisker Karma. But it’s also far more practical than either of those cars.

Deceptively fast

Tesla made its mark with the Roadster sports car. It was a crude, basic, all-electric open two-seater whose sins could be forgiven because its stunning performance was so addictive.

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

Enlarge Photo

Embarrassing some supercars costing twice its $109,000 base price, the Roadster knocked off 0-to-60-mph times of less than 4 seconds, courtesy of a 53-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack and a 175-kilowatt (248-hp) electric motor powering the rear wheels.

The 2012 Tesla Model S has a larger battery pack that forms the floorpan of its all-new design, but its 270-kW (362-hp) motor still powers the rear wheels. The Performance model has a more powerful 301-kW (416-hp) motor.

With a weight of about 4,700 pounds (a ton heavier than a Roadster), the Model S feels quite different behind the wheel than the attack-jet Roadster.

The Performance model we drove, with higher-spec power electronics and other modifications, is quoted at a 4.4-second 0-to-60-mph time (the standard Model S is quoted at 5.6 seconds).

We couldn’t test acceleration times, but the Performance edition certainly offered the ability to surge swiftly away from any other vehicle on Manhattan’s West Side Highway (sadly, we encountered no supercars).

Acceleration vs range

The deceptive part is that the Model S is so calm and quiet inside that there’s virtually no mechanical noise on acceleration. Tire noise is obvious with the stereo off, and then wind noise kicks in above 40 mph or so.

Only once, on full acceleration from 0 to a high number, did we hear a high-pitched humming whine, presumably from the power electronics.

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

Enlarge Photo

Just as in the Roadster, however, keeping your foot in the Tesla Model S will do a lot of damage to your range.

The car showed a maximum potential range of 290 miles on a fully charged battery, but based on the last 30 miles of driving, showed us a predicted range of 165 miles–meaning owners will rapidly learn to trade off the sheer fun of acceleration for longer range.

Air suspension

The air suspension provides ride quality that’s firm over small road imperfections, with a little more feedback transmitted than might be expected. We didn’t test the various suspension settings, including one that our Tesla minder candidly described as “mushy.”

Over the bad stuff, including the uneven, potholed, cobblestone streets of Manhattan’s West Village, the Model S rode superbly. 


2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

Enlarge Photo

In the Tesla Model S, you can easily find yourself not only pulling away from traffic, but traveling 20 mph over the speed limit. And as in the Roadster, at least in the Model S Performance model, you’ll want to do it again and again and again.

Michael Sexton, who runs the Tesla Store in Manhattan, says that it took him about six months before he stopped using his Roadster that way and just drove it–knowing that he had sheer acceleration on tap when he wanted it.

Less regen than Roadster

Smooth but aggressive regenerative braking was a hallmark of the Tesla Roadster. There are only two settings for regenerative braking–Normal and Low–in the Model S, and the (highest) Normal setting felt less aggressive.

Experienced electric-car drivers often prefer “one-pedal driving,” planning ahead enough to use solely regenerative braking to slow down almost to a stop. That’s not quite as easy in the Model S, since its weight gives it more rolling momentum.

But the new and much larger pool of tech-oriented luxury car buyers who will consider the Model S (Tesla hopes) are likely to want it to drive in a familiar fashion, like an automatic BMW or Audi sedan. In that, Tesla’s new sedan succeeds.

The handling inspires confidence, with an obviously low center of gravity, but the Model S is a little heavier-feeling than we’d expected. It was more like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class we recently tested than the last BMW 5-Series we drove a couple of years ago.

And we look forward to the head-to-head comparison tests that traditional auto magazines are likely to do whenever they can get a Model S for more than an hour at a time.

Big fast touchscreen a generation ahead

Sitting behind the wheel, the driver sees three control stalks on the left and one on the right, all seemingly identical to those in Mercedes-Benz cars.

The two on the left are an upper cruise control and a lower turn signal, meaning that Model S drivers will try to signal with the cruise lever until they retrain themselves, just as in a Benz. There’s also a tilt-and-telescope adjustment for the wheel.


2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

HI-RES GALLERY: 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
  • 2012 Tesla Model S display screen [Photo: Flickr user jurvetson]
  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

On the right, a drive selector offers simply D, R, and P, with an automatic parking brake built in, without any separate lever or switch for that. There’s a small amount of idle creep built in, mimicking an automatic transmission car.

[UPDATE: After speaking with Tesla the next day, we learned that we were wrong: There is no idle-creep built into Model S cars right now. We're baffled as to what we experienced; the only thing we can imagine is that we were on an almost imperceptible downward slope when stopped, and the car has such low rolling resistance that it began to roll. In any case, we apologize for the error.]

But by far the most noticeable feature of the Model S interior is the giant 17-inch touchscreen display that takes up the entire center stack. The instrument cluster behind the steering wheel is entirely a digital display too.

The brilliant graphics, instant response, and easy-to-learn control screens of the central display immediately relegate any other car’s system to second-class status. The Mercedes-Benz COMAND system, BMW’s notorious iDrive, the mass-market MyFordTouch, and others are instantly outdated and primitive.

We were initially skeptical about having such a big screen to control most functions in the Model S. And, to be fair, an hour is nowhere near enough time to put it through its paces. But based on early use, we may become converts.

And Tesla’s Silicon Valley roots show through in a high “surprise and delight” quotient in unexpected places.

Want to open the sunroof? Just swipe your finger along a plan view of the Model S, toward the rear. Or you can use a large slider to open it to any percentage you want.

Switch on a turn signal, and if you happen to be on the Lights screen, you’ll see it flashing brightly on a photo-realistic image of your car. Ditto the parking lamps, the headlights, and so on.

You can connect a portable storage device to play digital music through the Tesla’s stereo system, though such web apps as Pandora, Switcher, and Spotify aren’t yet implemented.

You can likely expect those soon, along with voice commands, which haven’t yet been activated.

Remarkably, there’s also full web browsing via the built-in cellular connection. Or at least there will be until the Feds weigh in on that one.

Space for five

Inside, the cabin is wide, and five adults should be able to travel in comfort.

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

Enlarge Photo

The front seats are supportive, the driving position is good, the controls are well-placed, and outward visibility is good to the front and sides–though the steeply angled rear window glass offers little more than a slit in the rear-view mirror.

The rear door openings are smaller than they look, and the windows slope inward as they rise toward the roof rail. That makes access to the rear seat more challenging than you might expect.

Once seated in the rear, outboard passengers will notice that that the cabin is wider at shoulder height than at head level and the rear seat back is angled a bit more steeply than customary.

Because the battery pack is in the floorpan, front and rear footwells aren’t as deep as they would be in a conventional luxury sedan.

This means rear passengers are seated in a more reclined, knees-up position than in cars like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or BMW 5-Series. It’s not necessarily uncomfortable, but it’s noticeable.


2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

Enlarge Photo

If the Model S has a sunroof fitted, a six-foot man sitting in the rear seat comes within a fraction of an inch of the headliner. But most adults should be comfortable riding in the rear over long distances.

Practical electric car for the family

Once you’re past the wow factor of the central touchscreen, the Model S interior is relatively plain and unadorned.

Soft-touch materials cover any surface an occupant might come into contact with, but there are fewer of the kinds of power accessories for passengers than the lengthy options list of competing cars offer. 

The total interior volume of the Tesla Model S is rated at 95.1 cubic feet. There’s 26.3 cubic feet of cargo space in the load bay with the rear seat up, a total of 58.1 cubic feet with the seat folded down, and another 5.3 cubic feet in the surprisingly large front trunk.

That makes it a practical family vehicle, in stark contrast to the subcompact interior of the Fisker Karma, with its absurdly tiny 6.9-cubic-foot trunk.

The early-production Model S cars appear to be well-built, at least after scanning four different models (serial numbers 106, 108, 111, and 116, for those who keep track).

About the biggest quality flaws we noticed among the four were a misaligned Velcro fastener patch on the front-trunk liner, and a recalcitrant rear shoulder-harness retractor.

Overall, A for effort

Overall, our early and brief impressions of the 2012 Tesla Model S are favorable.

It appears to be the first electric car that’s simultaneously good-looking, fully digital in the best tradition of Silicon Valley innovation, and requires very little compromise for around-town use.

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

Enlarge Photo

Whether it will become a viable distance traveler depends entirely on whether Tesla launches its much-discussed SuperCharger network of quick-charging stations.

And whether Tesla will become a viable independent car company depends on whether it can ramp up Model S production while keeping quality high, and continue to add digital features.

The company will also have to manage the inevitable tweaks, updates, or quality recalls graciously, swiftly, and decisively in a way that convinces customers they’re being taken care of by this audacious new carmaker.

The last car company started from scratch in the U.S. by entrepreneurs whose brand is still with us today was Chrysler, in 1924. Tesla still faces very, very long odds of survival.

But on first impression, it appears that they’ve at least gotten the product pretty much right.

Now the hard work begins.

+++++++++++

By John Voelcker

Thread of the Day: Which 2013 Of-the-Year Winner Would You Park in Your Driveway?

Thread of the Day: Which 2013 Of-the-Year Winner Would You Park in Your Driveway?

We named the 2013 Ram 1500 our 2013 Truck of the Year winner this morning, wrapping up our 2013 Motor Trend “Of-The-Year” season. Joining the Ram 1500 with Golden Calipers of their own is our 2013 Sport/Utility of the year 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, and our 2013 Car of the Year, the 2013 Tesla Model S.

For today’s Thread of the Day, we’d like to know which of the 2013 Golden Caliper-recipients you’d most want to own. Each award-winner brings plenty to the table; we loved the Mercedes GL’s segment-busting interior and dynamics; the Tesla Model S’ eco-cred, long legs, and speed; and the Ram 1500′s segment-first eight-speed automatic and towing capability. To make things more interesting, we’re going to include as an option the winner of our coveted Best Driver’s Car award: the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S.

So again, which of the following would you rather park in your driveway:

2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, our Sport/Utility of the Year

2013 Tesla Model S, our Car of the Year

2013 Ram 1500, our Truck of the Year

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S, our Best Driver’s Car

Tell us your choice and why in the comments below.

By Christian Seabaugh

Tesla’s Musk Says Roadster Kicks Ferrari’s Ass; Is He Right?

Tesla’s Musk Says Roadster Kicks Ferrari’s Ass; Is He Right?

“This kicks the ass of any Ferrari except the Enzo.” — Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk regarding the Tesla Roadster.

We took a good long look at Tesla’s SEC filing and IPO road show presentation on Monday, and there was a lot to cover. One detail we skipped was this quote from Tesla’s commander-in-chief Musk, a man known for his over-the-top statements. He and Tesla have made a lot of bold claims about their company and their product, but this just might be the boldest.

Musk says his Roadster can go toe-to-toe with any Ferrari that isn’t an Enzo. Can it? We dug through our test numbers and pulled out the top-shelf Tesla Roadster Sport and seven Ferraris we’ve tested to find out. Unfortunately, we only have partial numbers on some of the cars, because getting a free Ferrari to flog on the track is difficult for even us. For comparison’s sake, we even threw in the mighty Enzo itself.

Take a look at what we measured for all the cars and tell us what you think of Musk’s proclamation.

2010 Tesla Roadster Sport

0-60: 3.7 secs
1/4 Mile: 12.6 secs @ 102.6 mph
60-0 Braking: 113 ft
200-ft Skid Pad: 0.98 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight: 24.6 secs @ 0.81 g (avg)
Power: 288 horsepower/295 pound-feet
Base Price: $130,450 (with $7500 Federal tax credit)

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2008 Ferrari F430

0-60: 4.2 secs
1/4 Mile: 12.3 secs @ 120.7 mph
60-0 Braking: 107 ft
200-ft Skid Pad: 0.95 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight: 24.6 secs @0.80 g (avg)
Power: 483 horsepower/343 pound-feet
Base Price: $191,775

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2008 Ferrari F430 Scuderia

0-60: 3.1 secs
1/4 Mile: 11.2 secs @ 126.7 mph
60-0 Braking: 93 ft
Power: 503 horsepower/347 pound-feet
Base Price: $272,306

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2008 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

0-60: 3.2 secs
1/4 Mile: 11.3 secs @ 126.4 mph
60-0 Braking: 104 ft
200-ft Skid Pad: 0.95 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight: 25.0 secs @0.79 g (avg)
Power: 612 horsepower/448 pound-feet
Base Price: $317,595

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2010 Ferrari 16M Scuderia Spider

0-60: 3.8 secs (sub-optimal surface)
1/4 Mile: 11.8 secs @ 122.7 mph (sub-optimal surface)
60-0 Braking: 96 ft
Power: 503 horsepower/347 pound-feet
Base Price: $313,350

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2010 Ferrari California

0-60: 3.5 secs
1/4 Mile: 11.9 secs @ 117.4 mph
60-0 Braking: 100 ft
200-ft Skid Pad: 0.99 g (avg)
Power: 454 horsepower/357 pound-feet
Base Price: $192,000

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2011 Ferrari 599 GTO

0-60: 3.4 secs (mfr)
Power: 661 horsepower/457 pound-feet
Base Price: $450,000 (est)

2011 Ferrari 458 Italia

0-60: 3.4 secs (mfr)
Power: 557 horsepower/398 pound-feet
Base Price: $213,500 (est)

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By Scott Evans

World's first Model S delivered to Tesla board member

Tesla Model S Steve Jurvetson

Sitting on the Board of Tesla Motors certainly has its benefits, and for Steve Jurvetson, it’s the chance to become the owner of the very first Model S to roll out of the factory. Jurvetson, a director of the venture capitalist firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, took ownership of Model S #001 at a packed ceremony held at Tesla’s Palo Alto, California headquarters earlier this week.

The moment was captured for posterity on video, which you can see below, and features Tesla’s Chief Technical Officer, JB Straubel handing over the key to Jurvetson, who gives a brief speech before driving the car — complete with TSLA S1 license plate — out into the world.

Naturally, he was quite excited, and sung the praises of electric vehicles in his words, saying “we’ll all look back ten to twenty years from now and realize this was the future, and all cars were to be electric.”

He added that next year, all the cars in his “personal fleet” will be made by Tesla, and he “will never have to buy gasoline again.”

So how did Jurvetson grab the very first Model S, and not Tesla CEO Elon Musk? According to an article published in 2010, Jurvetson spotted a concept Model S during an investment meeting, and said simply that he had to have one.

Obviously one for dramatic gestures, he wrote a check for the full price of the car right then, and Musk, who was sitting at the same table, said “well, I guess you get the first car.” Musk isn’t going to have to join the long waiting list though, as he’ll be getting car number two.

For all us mere mortals, who don’t have the financial means to splash out the $57,000 to $104,000 needed to secure a Model S, we can watch those who can on June 22, when Tesla will livestream the first public deliveries on its website.

By Andy Boxall

Real Estate Developer Suing Tesla Over New Mexico Production Facility



Before Tesla were sure they were going to use the old NUMMI plant in California as their main (and so far only) production facility, back in 2007, they signed an agreement with Rio Real Estate, for the building of a massive factory, in New Mexico.

Rio Real Estate were to build the facility and then lease it out to Tesla for $1.35-million per year, for a 10 year period. However, after reaching an agreement with Toyota for the NUMMI plant, Tesla seem to have forgotten about their past commitments.

We hope they resolve this peacefully, so that Tesla can still make the Model S, regardless of where that might take place. The Model S needs to be made, so that Tesla can make enough money to thoroughly develop their 3-Series rival, a car which promises to be much cheaper and more accessible than the Model S.

Story via greencarreports.com

By Andrei Nedelea

Tesla to introduce new $30,000 compact sedan as EV company expands its charging network

Tesla Headquarters

In an aggressive move to ramp up its product line-up, Telsa has announced it will build a new compact sedan aimed at competing with the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series.

The new all-electric car will share the same underpinnings as the upcoming new Tesla X crossover vehicle due in 2014, according to a report by Reuters.

News of both the compact car and sedan confirm earlier reports by Tesla CEO Elon Musk that the automaker wants to build on the popularity of the $70,000 Tesla Model S with more affordable EVs. 

Musk said the new sedan, known as Generation 3 because it will be built on the Tesla’s third-generation platform, will be priced for around $30,000 and will likely even share some of the Model X’s unique design cues.

The Tesla Model X will likely be targeted at Audi Q3 and BMW X1 crossover, which is priced around $30,000 as well. 

Like the Model S, the new sedan and compact crossover will be powered exclusively by electric motors and lithium-ion batteries, as indicated in the Reuters report.

Tesla Charging Station

The new vehicles are also being designed to use Tesla’s high-tech fast-charging stations, which are currently being rolled out in cities such as Chicago, Denver, Houston, Seattle and Portland.

By the end of June, Tesla is slated to have 25 of the Supercharger stations in the designated markets with plans for 100 stations by next year and eventually 200 total. 

The carmaker currently has eight of the high-tech stations in operation, including one in Connecticut, one in Delaware and six in California, the U.S.’s largest market for EVs. 

Tesla’s Supercharger stations, touted by the carmaker as “the fastest charging station on the planet,” can provide half a charge to a vehicle in 20 minutes, according to the carmaker’s website.

It all creates an interesting challenge for other carmakers as Tesla continues to build on its popularity beyond the Model S, as one of the most highly coveted brands in the premium EV market. 

By Marcus Amick

Report: Tesla CEO Elon Musk Pontificates On Future EV Products – Rumor Central

Report: Tesla CEO Elon Musk Pontificates On Future EV Products

It’s been about two weeks since Tesla’s Model S won Automobile Magazine’s Automobile of the Year, and the EV sedan added another trophy–Motor Trend’s Car of the Year title –to its case, which also includes Yahoo Autos’ Car of the Year. Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is happy to see the awards rack up and hear the accolades, but is reportedly celebrating with the promise of more Tesla models.

That isn’t to say that Musk isn’t spending a minute or two just celebrating. “When I heard that the Model S had won Motor Trend‘s Car of the Year, I did a double-overhead high-five with George Blankenship [head of Tesla's retail efforts],” the CEO told Motor Trend Editor-in-Chief Ed Loh. “It’s going to be a huge shot in the arm to the whole Tesla team.”

But there aren’t many laurels for Musk to rest on: Tesla is still struggling a bit, amidst the financial hardship of starting a car company, creating a network of charging stations, and now fighting legal battles over its retail network. Keep in mind that Tesla has only built 1000 Model S bodies (which likely includes development models) at its Fremont, California plant through the end of last month. Tesla is hoping to ramp up production to 20,000 units a year by next year.

If Tesla is successful, there are still a few roadblocks between here and President Obama’s stated goal of having one million EVs, plug-in hybrids, and EREVs on the road by 2015, namely the charging infrastructure and initial cost of buying an electric car. Musk hopes to have both of those bases covered, too, and predicts that Obama’s reelection will help keep the pressure on from the government to promote greener, more electrified cars.

First up: the Supercharger network, a national grid of solar-powered electric car chargers along major thoroughfares that hopes to make interstate (or cross-country) driving possible with the Model S. Musk and Tesla recently opened a handful of Supercharger stations but hope to have all major intercity routes (like Boston to New York/Philadelphia/Washington D.C.) covered by 2014.

As for the products, Musk hopes to introduce new products to expand Tesla’s reach while the technology’s costs naturally come down. “I think we’ve got some really good products coming down the pipeline,” he said. “We’ve got the Model X, which is really trying to apply some major innovation to the SUV and Minivan segment, and we’ve got our third-generation car, which is a mass-market electric car–that’s actually the one that I’m most keen to bring to the market.” Lest you think that Teslas are only going to be passenger-focused vehicles like SUVs and sedans, Musk did slip a little fun into his conversation with Motor Trend. “We have this idea for an electric truck that could really be a big improvement in truck technology…[and] we’d like to do an electric supercar.”

With that said, the truck and supercar’s future (and the saleability of the Model X) do depend on the ability of the Model S to make money. So if you’re hoping for a California-built, all-electric truck in your future driveway, keep your fingers crossed.

Sources: Reuters, Motor Trend





By Ben Timmins